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Lars Hansen (Denmark)
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Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-based Management
Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-based Management
by Jeffrey Pfeffer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.90

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Important topic but almost falls into own trap, 13 Dec. 2009
I recently had the opportunity to read
The Halo Effect: .and the Eight Other Business Delusions That Deceive Managers

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the Halo Effect and was hoping for something similar from this book. Overall, I was not dissapointed, and I think both books succeeds at exploring a very important topic.

The best part of the book is section II, in which different half-truths are addressed, such as whether financial incentives drive performance, whether companies change or die, whether strategy is destiny etc. This is in my opinion, the real meat of the book, and the answers are often rather subtle.

I did however find some parts of the book a bit flawed. Throughout the book, the authors encourage us to think critically about management, and to be wary of using anecdotes and casestories as sources of management "truths". But in it's more prescriptive parts, the books gives some bland and generic advice, which did not seem like hard facts to me.

So I end up giving the book four stars for the middle section, and for it's treatment of a vitally important topic. But I was very close to only giving it three stars.


The Halo Effect: How Managers Let Themselves Be Deceived
The Halo Effect: How Managers Let Themselves Be Deceived
by Phil Rosenzweig
Edition: Paperback

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ought to be required reading at first semester on any MBA program, 13 Dec. 2009
Most management literature is based on using cases or surveys to deduce the underlying behaviour that makes a company perform great or bad. The basic premise is, that we can isolate the generic factors that make a company great. This book is a much needed anti-thesis to this prevailing "wisdom".

The author first takes us through the two cases (yes, thats a bit ironic) of Cisco and ABB. Two companies who in their prime could do nothing wrong, only later to become ridiculed as badly managed companies. Convincingly, the author argues that we attribute positive and negative behaviour to a company depending on how it performs, rather than determine it's performance based on it's behaviour.

The book then takes us through a series of delusions, each hammering a nail through common 'halos'. The author reminds us, that cases are fine to learn from, as long as we take them as anecdotes and stories, and not as scientific truth. Some of the halos seems a bit overlapping, and toward the end, the book becomes a bit repetitive.

But still, this is a book that give you a clear perspective on what is wrong with most management literature (I mean 90% or more). This title ought to be required reading before reading as much as one piece of traditional business literature.

But better late, than never. A true eye-opener!


Architecture and Patterns for IT Service Management, Resource Planning, and Governance: Making Shoes for the Cobbler's Children
Architecture and Patterns for IT Service Management, Resource Planning, and Governance: Making Shoes for the Cobbler's Children
by Charles T. Betz
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Great concept but based on ITIL v2, 13 Dec. 2009
On the positive side, I think the author is on the right track with his value chain for IT.

There is a certain irony to the fact, that IT it used to support the value chain and processes of the business as a whole, but has not yet itself defined its own value chain. Much IT is still managed by poorly integrated processes, data and systems. By using sound architecture and patterns, we can get much closer to realizing the'ERP of IT'

On the negative side, the mapping of ITIL to the value chain is based on ITIL v2. This does not mean that main concept does not hold - on the contrary the subject of the book is more important than ever. But as someone working in an ITIL v3 environment and who is not well versed in ITIL v2, I was quite dismayed by this.

Your mileage may however vary.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 17, 2011 3:15 PM GMT


The Complexity Crisis: Why Too Many Products, Markets, and Customers Are Crippling Your Company - and What to Do About It
The Complexity Crisis: Why Too Many Products, Markets, and Customers Are Crippling Your Company - and What to Do About It
by John L. Mariotti
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wheres the substance?, 22 Jun. 2009
Unfortunately, as interesting as I find the topic of this book, I also found the book to be rather flawed.

My main issue with this book is, that I find it to lack a firm theoretical or empirical basis (which unfortunately, is a very common problem with business literature). The author often fails to argue convincingly, leaving me to disagree with the premises or conclusions presented in the book. I also became rather annoyed with the tendency to state opinions as facts (i.e. "The most common cause of management-induced complexity is the constant striving of companies to achieve high-growth in low-growth markets", without any facts to back that statement up).

Secondary to the main issues, I also find the book to repeat many tired clichés (such as "Whats gets measured, gets managed", as well as using acronyms like TAC (Truths about Complexity) and FIKIF (Fix it; keep it fixed). The book also defines arbitrary measures, such as the Complexity Factor (CF), which I frankly found a tad hperbolic, given the difficulties of defining or even calculating complexity by scientists who works within the field of complexity.

The book is written about an extremely interesting and relevant topic. It is also an easy read. And perhaps the author is even right. Unfortunately, the book lacks the validity and credibility that one would expect from a book on a topic like complexity..

There are some gems, but in general I did not enjoy this book.


Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities and Software
Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities and Software
by Steven Johnson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great start, but falls flat, 22 Jun. 2009
The book is written about a topic that I find extremely interesting. Reading the first chapter, I thought that this was going to be one helluva book on emergence and complexity.

Unfortunately, the quality of the writing declines sharply following the first chapter. The author gets into some weird discussions about the internet as a united brain (even like SKYNET), and then it really starts going downhill.

Too bad the author did not manage to keep the momentum from the first chapter. If then, he would have written a classic on the topic.


Business Process Management: The Third Wave
Business Process Management: The Third Wave
by Howard Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: £25.94

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars WHY, more than a HOW, 8 Jun. 2009
Pressured by forces such as globalization and commoditization, companies of today need to be able to respond to ever faster changing market conditions both proactively and reactively. And since business processes is the business, companies must adopt some kind of business process management. Business processes becomes the "unit of work" that businesses must deal with. This essentially the message in this highly interesting book by Smith and Fingar.

The nirvana of BPM third wave is the situation where the business analyst can redesign a business process, simulate the new process, and then move the new process to production in the IT-systems by himself. In this way "the business" becomes empowered and the divide between IT and business is not just bridged, but simply obliterated!

A central theme of the book is how silo-based application architecture is a major problem in creating agile companies. Business processes are being too tightly coupled to the individual applications, that were never designed for participating in end-to-end business processes . The authors also points out, that the current application integration paradigm is overly data-centric, focusing more on moving data back and forth between systems, rather than enabling the use of functionality across business processes. The current application stack paradigm must be eliminated in order to realize their vision of BPM.

It's not surprising that the authors spends quite a bit of energy on trying differentiate third wave BPM from previous reengineering methods such as BPR (which had spectacular failure rates of 70-80%) or ERP implementations (which gave companies the flexibility of a large rock). The third wave is differentiated by being more incremental than the big-bang reengineering attempts of the 1990's, as well as it's heavy reliance on information technology not just in supporting the business, but also in managing the business processes. While the criticism of earlier reengineering attempts is very thorough and fair (although heavy handed at times), the authors does not attempt to "eat their own dog food" by criticizing their own flavour of BPM.

The Good:

The book is very well written and lays out a compelling vision on how the business can be empowered. Great description of the problems facing companies today and convincing arguments on the importance of business process management. Finally, a very good description of the problems faced with the current application stack architecture. Gets IT right.

The Bad:

The book is not overly burdened by reflective self-criticism (which happens to be a problem with most business literature). Statements such as "in the third wave companies will be much more savvy at..." and "we can take the technology for granted as good enough" are not uncommon. Too often the text reads like a sales brochure. This does detract from the value of the book, especially as the authors does not really attempt to argue or investigate the underpinnings of third wave BPM.

Overall:

Despite the criticism it's still a great book. It's more a WHY book than a HOW book. If you are looking for the nitty gritty implementation details, this is not the one to look for. But for what the book does, it does very well. The book serves well as a primer on BPM as well as a vision on how BPM should be.


Enterprise Architecture at Work: Modelling, Communication and Analysis
Enterprise Architecture at Work: Modelling, Communication and Analysis
by Marc Lankhorst
Edition: Hardcover

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very ambitious volume on integrated Enterprise Architecture modelling, communication and analysis, 8 Jun. 2009
The books main theme is about how to achieve Business-IT alignment through the use of enterprise architecture. The modelling part is by far the most important part of the book. Here the ArchiMate language is defined, which is an open and independent language for enterprise architecture.

A current problem in enterprise arcitecture is that stakeholders within different architecture domain operates with their own models and that the relationships between the concepts in these models seldom are clear. ArchiMate attempts to remove these ambiguities by creating a unified meta-model of EA across the three architectural domains: Business, Application and Technology.

The model itself is surprisingly simple - and dare I say - elegant. It's safe to say, that ArchiMate takes a service oriented approach to enterprise architecture. It is also worth noting, that ArchiMate is not an attempt to replace specialised modelling languages such as UML or BPMN.

It is also worth noting, that ArchiMate is being adopted by The Open Group (under TOGAF)

The good:

Very ambitious attempt at creating a unified and coherent meta-model for enterprise Aarchitecture. Excels in describing the need for a coherent language as well as describing the ArchiMate language. The book is very scholarly written and there is little if any hype.

The bad:

The level of ambition and the scholary nature of the book make for a very dense read. But not only that - the parts dealing with communication and analysis seems less approachable and less applicable than the modelling part.

Overall:

It's hard not to applaud this attempt at creating a unified and holistic way to model and describe enterprise architectures. One can only hope that initiatives like this will take hold. A dense read for sure - but well worth it.


Business Process Driven SOA using BPMN and BPEL: From Business Process Modeling to Orchestration and Service Oriented Architecture
Business Process Driven SOA using BPMN and BPEL: From Business Process Modeling to Orchestration and Service Oriented Architecture
by Kapil Pant
Edition: Paperback
Price: £35.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read, but too stuck on Oracle tools., 8 Jun. 2009
The Good:

The book shines when it describes the relationship between BPM and SOA, and how concepts such as the Business Process Life-cycle, Business Activity Monitoring and Business Rules fits into this equation. The book also delivers a thorough description of BPMN and BPEL. In general, I found the book to be well-written and an easy read.

The Bad:

The primary complaint about this book is the heavy toolset bia; if you're not an Oracle shop, then you might find the emphasis on Oracle products problematic. I read the book from a more academic perspective, and to be honest I mostly browsed the most Oracle-centric parts of the book. So I believe that non-Oracle readers will find less value in the book.

Overall:

I have mixed emotions about this book. On one hand, the authors clearly have a firm grasp on the relationship between BPM and SOA, and they are able to articulate this vision in a clear and coherent way. The book also contains a fine introduction to BPMN and BPEL. There is clearly a need in this space, so props should be given for this.

On the other hand, the Oracle emphasis gets a bit out of hand - especially as the book is not called "Process Driven SOA for Oracle" or something like that. It is with this context in mind, that I think spending as much as one third of the book on Oracle stuff is too much.

So if you are in an Oracle shop looking for material on BPM and SOA, then by all means buy this book. If not, then you might want to be a bit more cautious. But given the scarcity of literature in this area, you really might have difficulties finding something better.

4 stars - and let me just say that I was a bit gentle with this rating.


Thinking in Systems: A Primer
Thinking in Systems: A Primer
by Diana Wright
Edition: Paperback

34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Primer on Systems Thinking, 8 Jun. 2009
I have a more thorugh review on my website. But let me just say, that I really enjoyed this book a lot.

The central insight of the book (and systems thinking in general) is, that manipulation of a system can suppress or release some behaviour which is latent within the structure of a system. A system can cause its own behaviour.

It is easy to see, why such insights carry an important message to anyone wishing to manipulate a complex systems into a desired state, such as architects, organisational designers, or business process designers. The book urges us to consider systems thinking complementary to reductionistic analysis, not throwing either of the paradigms out with the bathing water.

I usually don't comment on the appendix on the book, but in this case I will make an exception; the appendix is excellent and containts both a very useful glossary, as well as the main points of the book in bulletpoints.

This book is an extremely interesting read, and in particular relevant for people dealing with changes in complex structures, such as organisations, architectures, or business processes. For some readers, this primer will be a complete eye opener, changing the way the world is seen, For other, the will start to give them a vocabulary and a framework for understanding what they already knew by intuition.

The book provides a lens for understanding systems - and an excellent at that!


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